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Rhododendron help

Hi everyone, 

I am loving this forum so far - everyone is so knowledgeable! I was wondering if I could throw another quesiton at you all, this time about a 3 year old Rhododendron Madame Masson. (photo below).

I bought this 3 years ago, planted it in ericaceous compost in my garden and pretty much just left it alone. I guess I needed to have given it more attention over the years, because it looks pretty bad now with holes in most of the leaves. And this year it just isn't flowering even though it seems to have flower buds everywhere. image

Does anyone have any advice on how to save this plant? Are the holes from slugs? And should I remove the flower buds if they don't flower?






  • Have you been feeding the plant?  Because it's in ericaceous compost, you need a specialist feed.  I'd try that, your plant will look and feel better for it.  Not an expert, but I think you need a sequestered Iron feed, and if you water it, use rainwater, not tap water, especially if you're in a hard water area, as hard water contains calcium carbonate, which is alkaline, which won't do your plant any good.

    I'm not sure which pest is causing the holes in the plant, but I don't think it's slugs, as rhodos have quite tough, leathery leaves, which I would have thought to be a bit to chewy for a slug to have a go at (again, I could be wrong).

    I think the flowering has just been delayed this year due to the really cold start to the year.  Daffs are normally well and truly over by this time of year, I still have some in flower.  I'd feed it, and leave it, it should burst into flower pretty soon.  I'm sure someone else could suggest a culprit for eating the leaves (caterpillars maybe?), have you had a good look around, especially underneath the leaves, to see if anything is lurking there?

  • Cheryl7Cheryl7 Posts: 18

    Thanks Mummy Muddy Paws. I was trying to be clever and yesterday put a sequestrene feed on the plant, but mixed it up with tap water and I live in a very hard water area - oops!

    I guess I will just have to see what happens. Fingers crossed the flowers come out, but I'm not holding my breath...

    I will look around for some caterpillars, you could be right about that. Thanks again for your advice!

  • jeffdjeffd Posts: 61

    I can't enlarge the picture but the holes you mention look like vine weevil damage.

  • Cheryl7Cheryl7 Posts: 18

    Oh dear! Vine weevils? I think you might be right having just examined the leaves more closely.  Is there a dog and child friendly way to get rid of vine weevils? Thanks!

  • jeffdjeffd Posts: 61

    Nematodes are a safe way to control vine weevils, if that's your only plant being attacked you could go out with a torch on a warm evening, and try to catch any vine weevil on the plant.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,358

    Slugs and snails don't really go for rhodies and vine weevil only really nibble round edges. There is a viburnum beetle but not sure if it attacks rhodies as well. 

    Is it in a sunny dry site Cheryl? They do prefer damper, shadier positions and are pretty robust if in the right conditions. If it's in a hot site I'd move it and give it a good watering in, mulch it with bark and see how it gets on.image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • LokelaniLokelani Posts: 112

    Not all my rhodies are out yet, everything is about a month behind this year.

    I can't look closer at the picture, but from what I can see they could just be healthy buds that aren't out yet. If they'd failed to open I'd guess they'd probably just shrivel up & drop off. 

    Don't know about the leaves I'm afraid.

  • my rhododendron is the same but flowered well

  • hi there just a update last night i had a look again at my rhododendron new shoots that had just opened that day were munched oh ++++++. on close looking i found on underside of leaves tiny 3 to 5 mm catapilers promply sprayed.i have been looking for culpit for about 4 weeks

  • blackcapblackcap Posts: 17

    Very same thing has happened to my small rhododendron plant.  Every time time I look at night I cannot see anything (probably spot me with my torch and hide!!).  I am certain it is not slugs or snails.  I have a hypericum next to eat which has been well eaten by leaf cutters but never see them either!   My taller rhododendrons are doing very well with small signs of leaves being eaten but they flowered very well this year.

    I don't want to kill our wildlife, especially caterpillers and not that precious about my plants so will not use slug pellets (am sure do more harm than good).  Nematodes have been mentioned - is this a pellet or in spray form?  Will it kill caterpillars?

    Now and again I collect slugs and snails and take them to a nature reserve as won't kill them but I tend to leave the caterpillars. (Hoping the birds will get the little cabbage white ones at least but not sure they do?). .


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